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quarta-feira, 9 de dezembro de 2015

Lubin: Upper Ten

by: Serguey Borisov

When I had the chance to smell the new fragrance from the house of Lubin, named   Upper Ten,  I was really surprised. From the official description and pyramid, I was expecting a fresh masculine fragrance full of spices. A fragrance of masculinity, power and energy. And I did find almost all of these qualities, except for freshness. Instead of a generic  fresh, light and transparent fragrance, I was amazed by the spicy, powerful, oriental character of Upper Ten.
A spice bag of cool coriander, bright cinnamon, and sweet cardamom warm the fragrance, while Upper Ten escapes any resemblance with gingerbread and spicy rhum by using bitter, metallic saffron and pink pepper. Rhum popped in my mind, due to the first perfume of the reborn house of Lubin – Idole de Lubin by Olivia Giacobetti, which was one of those rhum-like fragrances that smells like old casks and spiced rhum. Upper Ten has a different density, it's not transparent and mobile but dense and viscous. It reminds me of a hyper-spiced and strong, high-alcohol liqueur.
Flowers arise as the next wave in the Upper Ten composition: hot and spicy geranium gives way to orange blossom (for a moment I recalled L`Homme Parfum Intense Yves Saint-Laurent); most likely the floral notes are intended to convey the spirit of an old-fashioned gentleman, a delicate rich man's perfume with geranium's soapy clean smell. The American tastes of the 19th century were not very different from the tastes of the French and English people in the same era – America still was oriented on the popular fashions of the Old World. After the flower wave there is buzzing, gray, woody-pepper chord for a while, gradually getting warmer, developing a brownish-red tone and evolving towards the good old Idole de Lubin sillage accord, created with cinnamon, cedar wood and sandalwood.
Of course, there are some differences too: Upper Ten adds a soft and supple leather note and a lasting musky accord to Idole's dry woody base notes. Also, one could recall Egoiste Chanel with its oriental shiny bright geranium, roses, benzoin and spices, although it is more sweet. Upper Ten is a calm, pleasant and greatly balanced, warming perfume. It`s less seductive compared to Tom Ford's hits, and less thick than Arabian perfumes, but still quite unexpected for the Lubin collection. The leather with cinnamon, cedar and sandalwood accord that appears in the drydown is the main theme of Upper Ten. And cinnamon is not just used as a spice, it`s a symbol of American taste and the great love Americans have for it.
I wonder if vanity will be a big factor in the perfumeworld of the US regarding to this perfume; how many wannabes would like to become "upper ten" even by simply using this fragrance? The name of the fragrance speaks of the most successful and wealthy dynasties of the USA. The term "Upper Ten" was coined by American poet Nathaniel Parker Willis first, in the middle of the 19th century, meaning the “ten thousand people who created the United States”, laying the foundation of the modern USA. In addition to that, Google tells us that it is also the name used for a lemony soda and a  Norwegian whiskey, as well as a certain fraternity and various commercial enterprises. But first, there was a scent by Lubin with the same name selling in the United States from about 1875 till the 1930s, when the Great Depression set in. I was able to contact the president of Parfums Lubin, Gilles Thevenin, and he kindly agreed to share his vision with Fragrantica readers.
Gilles Thevenin
Gilles Thevenin: I'm presently trying to gather as many documents as possible about Lubin in the US in the 19th century: it's interesting to me because the US is my largest market now. I’m presently not been represented in Russia (never found a suitable partner) and since “I don’t do oud” we are not very strong in the Gulf region. But we are strong in Western Europe, which most aren’t.
Upper Ten mentioned in a range of floral extracts for handkerchiefs (catalog from 1896.
Gilles Thevenin: Lubin has been present in the US since at least the year 1830, and was very strong thanks to a Mr. Studley, who worked in the field for at least 70 years. His company was representing Lubin in the US from about 1830 until 1897. What I have discovered is that there was a local Lubin production factory  in the USA, but the fragrance concentrates were imported. Some fragrances were named after topics of the US culture (like Upper Ten, but also Washington Bouquet, Californian Flowers; I found 70 Anglo-Saxon names, mostly American). I still don’t know if they were original perfumes, specifically made for the USA, or European perfume creations with new American names. There was a regular exchange of letters between Mr. Felix Prot (the great-great grandfather of two of my shareholders), who took over from Pierre François Lubin in 1844. Descendants of Mr. Prot are trying to sort all that out from his personal archives. We have not found (yet?) letters between Mr. Studley and Mr. Lubin from before 1844. I suspect Lubin never learnt the English language anyhow. But many French could speak English in the 18th and 19th century, he could have had some help.
Catalog from Marshall Field's (Chicago) with Upper Ten listed among the famous Lubin extracts (1894)
Gilles Thevenin: Long story short, once I discovered the meaning of Upper Ten (on Wikipedia!), I wanted to create a very manly perfume. For me, that doesn’t mean animalistic, or with oud inside. It means the perfume of a strong westerner, a man with a weathered face, who has had tough times for many years working hard to make his life a success. A builder, a brave and daring man who has discovered luxury and comfort only in his later days, after a lifetime of battles, victories and setbacks, great achievements and great disappointments. A fighter, with wounds and wrinkles: his face shows what he has been through. He has deserved what he has now obtained. I heard many stories about those moguls of the 19th century (private trains with incredible comfort, crossing all the territory of the US,  whereas everyone else had to ride a lousy train, or to ride a horse or travel with an uncomfortable stagecoach), crossing the ocean to get to Europe regularly on private ships, building private mansions in the heart of Manhattan or Chicago with incredible luxury). Not always nice guys (to say the least). But people with a vision, a freedom we will never have again, an incredible strength and the will to build up great things.
Upper ten, the fragrance, is part of the lifestyle after all the hard work: a membership in a gentleman’s club, with precious wood on the walls, comfortable leather armchairs, fine gloves to cover his damaged hands, and good, old whisky. This is time for him to rest, and the fragrance should convey this comfortable feeling, as well as his manly strength and self-confidence, and the luxurious smell of the environment where he enjoys taking a moment away from the rushed world around him. That’s what I told Thomas (perfumer Thomas Fontaine), and that’s what he actually did.
Poster of the fragrance Upper Ten Lubin
Gilles Thevenin: Now for the result: in all honesty, I think the fragrance does reflect the idea that we wanted to convey, which is the most important thing in my eyes. It’s true that there are beliefs about what people from a certain culture want or don’t want: Arabs are supposed to like oud, Spanish people are supposed to like fresh citrus fragrances, Russians should be fond of leathery balsamic fragrances, Americans likes mostly “clean fragrances”. But these are recipes used by big brands fighting for market shares.
They need marketing analyses and tests to optimize their market share. And that’s how they end up doing always more or less the same stuff. Premium perfumery is not supposed to follow that trend: we don’t analyze the demand before making a perfume because we are supposed to create a new offer, something people don’t expect, and something they will enjoy. Something that will make them different from other people. That’s one of the reasons why I have never done an oud fragrance. People expect us to propose something they have not been waiting for, and that they will discover with pleasure… or not.
Also, people don’t expect us to make something that does not correspond to our identity. Like an oud fragrance; even though an Arabic brand is entitled to that, a French brand has no cultural reason for using oud. Except for doing some more business.There are different perceptions about what is a good smelling fragrance in different countries. “Good taste” is different from country to country. And good taste is not only what smells good or looks good. It’s also “good social taste”, which is actually being polite, in the way you decide to dress yourself or perfume yourself, with respect of others. Certain smells are “polite” in the Anglo Saxon world, because they smell “clean” in their perception. This means smelling like someone who just had a shower, and is wearing clean clothes. In the US, that could be a green apple scented shampoo, plus a musky soap smell.
But other countries expect that “clean effect” as well, albeit in a different way. In France, a citrus or orange smell, together with lavender will do the job. In Japan, “smelling in public” (have a “sillage”) has been almost a taboo: you may use only light fragrances that remind one of delicate nature scents: fruits (peach, apricot, plum) or delicate flowers. The smell you wear is related to a social behavior, it’s a way to be accepted in your human environment.
Detergent makers know this, too. They adapt the scent of their washing powders to local tastes, because the idea of “smelling clean” has different interpretations, according to the hygienic habits of the people. In a way, “smelling sexy”, as a result, is the privilege of only a small minority of self-confident people, who are not afraid that their personal smell would disturb other people, and give them a bad social image. This is particularly true for men, much more than for women, who are actually more daring. Men often ask for “something fresh” because they don’t dare saying “something clean”. Most don’t think of their perfume as a seduction tool. They want the image of seduction (the fragrance that make the girls take their clothes off), but not the smell that corresponds to it. Education in the past 40 years or so, however, gave the new generation more confidence. Younger people shower and change clothes every day, which was not the case only 40 years ago. They are not afraid to smell bad anymore. 
Gilles TheveninUpper Ten is a male scent, very virile, woody, leathery and spicy, with cinnamon in it because it sweetens the composition, which would be a bit harsh otherwise; and it’s part of the US family culture. This is the smell of Christmas cookies and apple pies. In a way, it’s reassuring, which is a seductive asset for a man towards a woman, sometimes even more so than good looks.  

Head notes: Italian bergamot, Bay Rose, Saffron, Juniper berry;
Heart notes: Cinnamon, Essence of Cardamom, Peach, Orange blossom, Geranium;
Base notes: Cedarwood, Sandalwood, Leather, Patchouli, White musk, Dry amber
Photo, scanned document pages, illustrations - Lubin

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